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George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) was a leader in twentieth century vertebrate palaeontology, and he contributed to making the American Museum of Natural History a powerhouse in the field. In 1959, Simpson left his job at the museum in a bitter dispute with its management. Simpson never published a rationale for his resignation, but he secretly wrote one.
After his first day unemployed, Simpson penned a long account of the circumstances surrounding his decision to leave. This STS Occasional Paper presents a complete transcription of Simpson’s “Night Thoughts,” with brief introductory notes. Simpson was scathing of the museum’s Director, Albert Parr, and his once-close colleague, Edwin Colbert. This STS Occasional Paper also gives Colbert a voice, allowing him a counterbalance via correspondence with the editor about his reaction to Simpson’s essay.
The biographer will find key insights into a turning point in Simpson’s career. They also will find a rare glimpse into the American Museum’s management during Parr’s directorship. Loyalties were tested to their breaking point. Some loyalties broke.
Cain, Joe, ed. 2018. Night Thoughts: George Gaylord Simpson’s Reflections on Leaving the American Museum of Natural History. STS Occasional Papers number 7. London: UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies. ISBN 978-1-78751-000-5.
UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) publishes the book series, STS Occasional Papers, to disseminate current research undertaken by our staff and affiliated scholars. The aim is to inform, investigate, and provoke. The series covers the whole of our diverse field: history, philosophy and sociology of science, science policy, and public engagement of science. The series is distributed open access, free of charge.
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